May 4 - 1961 - The Freedom Riders Leave Washington, DC
The Freedom Riders were a group of Civil Rights activists who sought to integrate interstate bus travel throughout the South, helping to ensure Supreme Court decisions would be enforced. The plan was relatively simple, as a a group of 13 people took buses from Washington, DC to New Orleans in early May of 1961, intentionally violating segregation laws as they went. For a little bit, it seemed they would easily make it to New Orleans. Then they entered Alabama. At Anniston, a group of Ku Klux Klansmen stopped a bus, forced everyone off, and firebombed it. Then they dragged the Freedom Riders, beaten and bloodied, to hospitals, where they were not treated. A second bus was similarly set upon as it reached Birmingham. These events, which made headline news, energized even more activists to assist the Freedom Riders and even continue the effort. They would almost all be arrested in Alabama and set upon by more white mobs. Eventually, as they continued, many Freedom Riders would be arrested in Mississippi, filling up jails and the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Finally, the Freedom Riders continued until the Interstate Commerce Commission guaranteed there would be no segregated accommodations in interstate travel.